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Forever
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June 2018: Magical Realism > Forever; 4 Stars

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Hahtoolah | 439 comments Forever, by Pete Hamill, is a historical novel that follows Cormac O’Connor through his life as a young boy in Ireland in the early 1720s through 9/11 in Manhattan. As a young boy, O’Connor thinks his name is Robert Carson. His family is Irish, but not Catholic, and he is growing up under English Protestant rule. His parents secretly teach him the Gaelic religion, its myths and language. His mother is killed when struck by the carriage carrying the Earl of Warren. A few years later, the Earl murders Cormac’s father. In accordance with the Gaelic tradition, Cormac must avenge his father’s murder. After learning that the Earl has left for America, Cormac boards a slave ship bound for New York City. The year is 1740.

On the ship, Cormac learns the harsh realities of the slave trade. He treats Kongo, a slave in the hold of the ship, with kindness by bring food and water to the slaves held in chains on the ship. Kongo remembers him and, later in New York, the two meet up and join an early rebellion against the British. Both Kongo and Cormac are wounded. Kongo brings the wounded Cormac to an African princess who heals Cormac and gives him the “gift” of immortality. Cormac will live forever, provided he never leave the island of Manhattan, or until he meets a “dark woman.”

The rest of the novel provides a wonderful history of New York City. The book takes up through the slave trade, the great fire of New York in 1835, the waves of immigrants and their treatment, the changes of the city from the farmland/wilderness into the bustling city we know today.

Cormac must maneuver carefully to make a living, while maintaining a low profile. He must keep his secret of immortality to himself, which affects his relationships. Eternal life is not all it’s cracked up to be. Cormac gets jobs under assumed names and jumps from job to job to avoid the quiries as to why he doesn’t age. He longs for intimacy, but fears loving a woman for fear that she will age but not he. Cormac is, however, involved in many important events of the City’s history. He becomes involved with George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. He sees the violent gangs that arise in the 1820s and ‘30s. He is witness to the Great Fire of New York. Boss Tweed befriends him.

In 2001, he falls in love with Delfina, a beautiful young woman from the Dominican Republic. He also encounters Willie Warren and his wife, Elizabeth. Willis, now a prominent New Yorker, is a descendant of the Earl of Warren. Does the Gaelic tradition of revenge apply to Willie?

As I read through this history, I did a lot of fact-checking. Many of the things and people described are actual events, places, and people. I enjoyed this book, but certain chapters dragged with too much detail.


message 2: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments I thought this was going to be Forever by Judy Blume for a second there!


message 3: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments Oh, I really enjoy well researched historical fiction where many of the events and people are real! I may have to look into this one.


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